Unexpected Gifts


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A pity party normally doesn’t include gifts. Of course, it usually doesn’t include company…or sex, either.

Feeling sorry for herself, Cassie Williams plays sick to skip out of her family’s Christmas Eve gathering. She loves her family, but on the heels of a divorce and her ex’s new engagement, an evening of togetherness is the last thing she wants.
Long-time friend, Sam MacLane has been in love with Cassie for years, and he isn’t about to let her have her pity party. There’s a blizzard on the way, and Sam shows up on her doorstep—bearing gifts…


   Cassie Williams stood there with her heart in her throat as she stared at the snowflakes clinging to the eyelashes of her visitor. Bright blue eyes had captured her gaze, and it was all she could do to break contact. She shoved the front door, letting it slam shut in the face of her guest.

   She should have known her mother would send someone over to check on her. Why did it have to be Sam of all people? Sam MacLane had been a pain in her ass since the summer she’d turned thirteen. Her brother’s best friend for life, it seemed, and part of the family. Hell, her mother had even knitted him his own stocking and still hung it up every year with the rest of the family’s.

   The door shook as he pounded on it. “C’mon, Cass. Open up. I’m freezing my balls off out here.”

   She pressed her forehead against the cool wood. She’d wanted to just be left alone to lick her wounds. She sighed, the sooner she let him in to drop off whatever her mother had insisted on sending, the sooner he’d leave her be. Twisting the doorknob, she tugged open the door.

   A thick dusting of snow covered his hair and shoulders, and he shook his head, spraying snowflakes everywhere. She scowled at him, brushing the dampness off her arms. His brilliant blue eyes met hers, and he grinned, accenting his dimples in the dark stubble covering his face. The sight of that killer smile aimed at her punched her in the stomach. He’d always been too gorgeous for her own good.

   She’d developed a monster crush on him the moment he and his family had moved in next door. Fifteen years later, and she still hadn’t been able to shake the damn thing. Of course, now, it was less girlish crush and more straight up lust. It didn’t matter, though. Nothing would ever come of it.

   “So, can I come in, or are you planning to let me freeze to death on your doorstep?”

   Ignoring the blush that heated her cheeks, she opened the door wider and gestured for him to step inside. Glancing beyond him, she noticed how much snow had piled up in the last couple of hours. Good thing she’d gone grocery shopping the day before. It was getting ugly out there.Turning her attention to Sam, she followed him into the kitchen where he’d begun unpacking the huge box her mother had sent.

   She crossed her arms over her chest. “So, what gave me away?”

   “No glassy eyes, red, swollen nose or blotchy skin.” He handed her a Tupperware bowl. “You’ve got homemade chicken soup here,” he said, slowly scanning the length of her body before meeting her gaze, again. “Though you clearly don’t need it.”

   She shoved the container into the fridge. “You can stop being a jerk any time, now.”

   “I could.” He winked at her. “But, I think we both know I probably won’t.”

   Her lips quirked, but she tried to hide the smile.

   He was right. He wouldn’t stop being a jerk. He was the same guy he’d always been. When they were kids, he was the guy who’d teased her mercilessly. But, he was also the same guy who’d made sure no one else ever picked on her. Just like another big brother. He was also the same guy who’d convinced his parents to let her entire family move in with them while their house was being repaired from the fire damage that had taken out their garage and damaged her bedroom.    Not just her bedroom—pretty much every last thing that had been in it, including her book collection. And he was the same guy who’d offered her his collection of comic books to read while the house was being repaired. She’d ended up being incredibly well-versed in Marvel and DC comics. To this day, the X-Men were still her favorite. She smiled at the memory.

   “So, what’s the real reason you bailed?” he asked, bringing her back to the present and holding her motionless with his gaze.

   The faint traces of her smile faded as soon as his question hit the air. She swallowed hard and cleared her throat. She wasn’t about to admit to Sam that she’d been feeling too sorry for herself to go have fun with her family. “It’s not up for discussion.”

   He studied her for a moment then pulled out a tinfoil covered plate from the box and peeled back the covering. “Cookie? Fudge?”

   He snagged a piece of fudge from the plate and bit into it, closing his eyes and groaning. The ragged sound settled deep in her womb, filling her with impotent longing. She forced herself to take a step away from him. Rounding the counter, she reached into the box to unpack the rest of whatever her mother had sent. Under a loaf of what could only be cinnamon bread was a pile of presents in brightly colored wrapping paper.

   Sam gently knocked her hand away. “Uh-uh. Those are for Christmas morning.” Taking the box, he wandered into the living room then the dining room and back to the kitchen. “Where’s your tree?”

   “I didn’t put one up this year.”

   He laid his carpentry-rough hand across her forehead. “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you are sick.”

   “Funny.” She shook off his touch. “I just didn’t feel like it this year.”

   “In high school, you put up a Christmas tree in your bedroom every year right after Thanksgiving dinner, because you insisted that the family tree wasn’t up long enough for you to enjoy.”

   She shrugged. “Things change.”

   He frowned, set the box back onto the counter and stared at her, looking as though he was weighing his words very carefully. He finally shook his head and said, “Not really.”

   “What do you mean?”

   He tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, and she tried not to shiver at his touch. “They don’t really change. For instance, Tyler is still the asshole he always was. Just because you know about it now doesn’t make it a new development.”

   She supposed he was right. Just because she’d been blind to the fact that Tyler was a jerk for the bulk of their relationship didn’t mean that he’d suddenly turned into a lying, cheating man- whore. He’d always been one; she’d just been stupid.

   “And you’re still the person who wants to see the best in everyone. Except maybe me.”

   Cassie couldn’t have kept her gaze from straying to his face if she’d wanted to. He looked completely sincere… Until he chuckled.

   “And I’m still the guy that’s wanted you for years.”

   Her heart clutched as his words registered, but she shook off the sensation.

   “Whatever,” she muttered. He wasn’t serious. He was never serious. That was another thing that didn’t change.

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Bronwyn Green is an award-winning author, blogger, and compulsive crafter. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two children and three somewhat psychotic cats. When not frantically writing, she can be found binge-watching Netflix while working on her latest craft project.

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